“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.” ~ Pablo Neruda
Oh, Neruda; he managed to put into words things, sensations and experiences that seem so hard to describe in words, but feel so powerfully alive.
I don’t know what this gorgeous line from this master of poetry brings to mind for you, but for me, when I first read it I instantly thought of the way we humans try so hard to not be our fully fragrant selves.
And yet, even when we deny our erotic nature, the ebb and flow of the rhythms of life that flow through the marrow of our bones and the blood in our veins, this erotic nature, this life bubbling with life, still pulses within us.
We can try to get rid of the ‘evidence’ of our earthly beauty, our ripeness, our sensuality.
We can try to hide those parts of ourselves that we believe are too much, too generous, too bright and loud, too earthy and gritty, in short, too beautiful to present to the world…but Neruda knows and reminds us that spring will always come, again.
And spring has its way. It comes out of the dead of winter, when much has died away.
Now as we go deeper into the dark months, deeper into fall, then winter, it’s a good time to open to those parts we’ve hidden away, feed them, warm them by the fire, nourish and nurture them, so when spring comes, spring can do what it does.
“Give voice to what you know to be true, and do not be afraid of being disliked or exiled.” – Eve Ensler
For some time now, I have seen a vision of where women must go if we are to discover the true depth of our capacities as women.
I know we’ve been under the shadow of men for a long time, and I know we must step out from under this shadow if we are to discover our nature as women, and bring the beautiful gifts of this nature to our world, a world that is thirsty for it…and the feminine.
When I speak of this, it is sometimes misunderstood as being under the thumb of men, but that’s not what I mean.
Stepping out from under the shadow has more than one layer of meaning.
Under the shadow, we can’t see who we are. We see ourselves in a masculine light, like there is no other way to be than like a man, or to be liked by a man.
Under the shadow, we take on the shadow side of the collective, seeing ourselves as the shadow of the culture, you know, the whole Eve complex, that women are responsible for the fall (and I don’t mean Eve Ensler).
Under the shadow, we don’t see our own light…we simply see the reflection of the masculine, or we see the masculine’s light and believe it is ours, too.
The second wave of feminism helped open the doors so we could discover our place in the world, discover our abilities to make it in a masculine world, and we’ve done that. We’ve proven we can lead alongside men. We’ve also come to see that many of us have had to ‘do it all’ in order to succeed in the ways we’ve wanted. Many of us also see we had to put away something, we had to put away our true nature, our womanliness.
Using words such as womanliness has its risks. To be honest, I don’t know what womanliness is. I know what I’ve been told it is. I know what I experience as a woman, but to know a nature not in relation to men is to relearn what it is to be woman. In some ways we can only know something by way of something else. But when we see our womanliness in response to men, or the masculine, it gets obscured by conditioning, and conditioned responses.
If we’ve put that away, what is it we take back out? What did we hide away?
Today I came across this quote by Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, a Sufi Sheik. I’ve seen him speak many times. He is an extraordinary mystic who sees what can’t be seen, and speaks to us of what we need to know.
Many women are unknowingly caught in a collective conditioning in which the feminine is made subservient to masculine, rational values. The feminine qualities of relating, listening, waiting are repressed in favor of rational thought and goal-oriented drives. American culture may appear to give freedom to women, but there is a collective pattern that denies the real nature of the feminine. As one woman said to me, “In this culture a woman can be anything she wants, as long as it is masculine.” Yet many spiritual qualities needed for the path, such as creating a sacred inner space, belong to the feminine. Often our spiritual nature lies buried under collective taboos, and requires courage and commitment to be rediscovered and lived. Love is a Fire: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home, page 52
“Our spiritual nature, buried under collective taboos.”
“A collective pattern that denies the real nature of the feminine.”
As Vaughn-Lee shares, the feminine is a both/and: the feminine principle (that which is in both women and men), as well as the embodiment of the sacred feminine that is inherent in women.
We women can’t see our true reflection by looking into the cultural pool, for it is laced with ideas, taboos, fears and beliefs that hide the true nature of the feminine.
The cultural shadow is built upon those taboos. The shadow is what we repress, what we put away into the dark, what we learned at a young age we couldn’t be if we were to remain ‘good girls’ living in the collective.
The real nature of the feminine lies buried under the shadow. We can’t know ourselves at the core, until we’re willing to look into the darkest places. We can’t come into balance within, balance between our feminine and masculine natures, until we aren’t obscured by this collective taboo-ridden shadow. And, we won’t come into right relationship with men, until we know ourselves fully as women.
It takes courage and commitment, and I add, a community of like-minded women committed to the journey
sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
To relearn through touch, through words, through connection: the real nature of the feminine can only flower from within.
So we begin with self-blessing: blessing self as woman, blessing self as sacred, blessing self as lovely.
The days are short now. The bright sun of summer is a far distant memory. Add fog, cloudiness, rain and suddenly I find myself getting the light from bulbs rather than rays. Yes, I live in California, but even here this time of year brings a decidedly different orientation to light.
For most of my life, I’ve leaned towards the sun for my light like a many-limbed plant, hungry for nourishment. It’s only been in the last part of my life that I’ve discovered the rays inside.
In the most difficult moments, I’ve stumbled around in the darkness inside. There was a reason I hadn’t ventured in willingly. That darkness is really dark. The rays aren’t apparent at first…at least they weren’t for me. I fumbled in this darkness many, many times never finding anything remotely resembling the light outside that I was so familiar with.
One time in particular, these inner rays finally broke through. It was in the midst of one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I can imagine – my grandson’s fight for his life, which began when he was twelve hours old.
When the light broke through, there were no bells and whistles, no sudden chorus of voices, no wildly evocative images, no mystical experience. There was only a deep darkness that gave way to radiant rays so bright, that my heart knew it was held, held by something so much greater than anything my mind could imagine. And in this holding, I discovered a strength born of a thousand suns.
This radiance came when I let go of my struggling. My baby grandson, my first grandchild, lying in a full size bed so completely covered with hospital trappings, that we could only stroke his fingers or one cheek.
I was at the end of the many ways I had found to cope in life with difficult things. What I had tried didn’t work. I desperately wanted to be there for my daughter and son-in-law, someone who could provide loving support and nourishment. I wasn’t much help if I couldn’t be there for them.
I marched myself right down the hall to the hospital chapel and went inside, closing the door behind me and vowing not to leave until I was able to come out in a different frame of mind. I vowed I would come out able to be really available to them, to my grandson and to whatever lay ahead. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I had never been someone who prayed like this, but it was completely instinctive.
I prayed to be shown a way to let go of my struggle, to let go of my neediness so I could be truly a source of nourishment for their needs. My fighting the whole thing was simply a way for me to not want to feel what was happening.
In the deepest moments of my prayer, I stopped asking and I began to listen, really listen. And in the listening, I opened to the grace that was already there. Light upon light.
I didn’t come out enlightened. I didn’t come out as mother of the year. I didn’t come out knowing the right things to do or say. I did come out knowing something deeper was holding me. I came out having reconciled that in that moment Lucas was as Lucas was. Accepting this didn’t mean at all that I couldn’t pray and hope he would get better; it didn’t mean I was happy how things were. I did mean I wasn’t fighting it any longer.
And when I was no longer fighting life, life began to move through me. I was available. I could be with my daughter and son-in-law. I could sing to Lucas, read him stories, hold his finger, stroke his cheek, hold my daughter, hold the space.
I could sit in the waiting room for hours on end as procedures came and went, able to be with the not-knowing, able to witness other young parents and their babies, some of them surviving, many of them not.
I could say hello to the little ones who live at Children’s Hospital, those who have no hope of ever leaving, feeling my connection to them rather than allowing my discomfort, my not wanting to take it in, my wanting to fix it and make it different get in the way of what was there…their beautiful souls.
The three months Lucas was at Children’s Hospital in Oakland seemed an eternity, but he survived against so many odds that they called him the miracle baby. They do amazing work there. He is now almost ten. Talk about light; this boy is radiant.
For me, this light has come in the letting go, in the surrender, in the giving up of what I thought should have been. It’s come in the genuine desire to let go of my wanting so that I could serve another. In those moments, what was born was born through me into life.
For me, this light is strength, but not strength that breeds pushing and striving. It’s strength that flows.
Sometimes with the day-to-day life stuff, this inner light seems distant; yet when I come back to now, back to what is really happening, it’s always here. It always was here.
…equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men & women, & the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance & that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man & women who’s confronted with it. ~ Joss Whedon
Last night I wrote quite a bit, following a fair amount of time online supporting other Girl Effect bloggers by reading their posts, commenting when a comment wanted to be written, and re-tweeting the posts so others would know about the campaign that is a beautiful groundswell of action.
As I think back over everything I’ve read in the past few days, all of it written by people moved deeply by the Girl Effect videos, a few passages come to mind. So I return to these passages to re-read them, and soak them up again.
The Cultural Aspect
One of these passages is in a post by Marianne Elliot, her second Girl Effect post. In this post, Marianne turns to look at this question from a fellow blogger, Carol:
“How is the cultural aspect/conflict reconciled? In the sense that a particular culture (or maybe just that particular child’s family dynamics) may demand that the young girl marry and have children by a certain age. How does one seek to reconcile the desire to educate young girls with the demands that are placed upon her by external factors?”
To work with the question, Marianne draws upon her time spent in developing countries. She shares these insights:
In 2003, a survey of 1500 Afghans identified access to education and health as the second most important human rights, after the right to security.
But how did they feel about education for their daughters? Well, there were a wide range of different views expressed ranging from a father frustrated that there was no suitable school for his daughters to attend, to parents who couldn’t afford to educate all their children and chose to educate their sons first.
Three years after this survey was carried out I ended up working in Badghis province, as it happens. There I met many girls, and their parents, and heard an increasing call for appropriate, accessible education opportunities for girls.
Most parents I met were more than willing to have their daughter educated if: she didn’t have to travel long distances in unsafe territory to get to school; the cost of education was within the family means; and the teachers were well-trained.
As far as I understood it, it wasn’t that ‘not educating girls’ was a deeply held cultural value, it was that there were more social, economic and environmental barriers between a girl and her education than there were between a boy and his education. Remove or reduce those barriers and many parent would be thrilled to educate their daughters.
These words of Marianne’s reverberate through me.
Societal, cultural and environmental barriers.
Choice and desire.
For awhile, I sit with these words. I sit with the ideas of the Girl Effect, with Carol’s question, with the thought that parents might not want the Girl Effect. And I wonder about it all. How we humans see things so differently?
And then the mother in me, a parent of two grown daughters, a grandparent of three (and one on the way) wonders about these parents, what they must face, the decisions they have to hold, the things they must weigh.
I think of these parents who want to know their daughters will be safe if they attend school. I wonder what it is like to be them. I wonder the decisions I would make if I were a parent now in these developing countries. I wouldn’t have the same perspective, for I wouldn’t have been exposed to the same things, I wouldn’t have grown up with the same beliefs instilled in me. My hopes and dreams for my children might be the same, they might be different. I realize, I can’t know.
And it hits me how similar we all are, in so many ways. Sometimes, I see the differences more clearly. Much of our current day culture and media seems to highlight the differences between people, pointing out things in the way of comparisons, most of the time picking a good side and a bad side.
As I sit in the swirl, I don’t see that here. I see sameness. Same, same. Then it hits me, again, for the zillionth time (sometimes it takes quite a few) how utterly connected we all are, even when we seem to see things differently. And in this connection, I realize that at a deep, basic level, no human being wants to deny girls and women the same rights accorded to boys and men. I don’t feel that any parent consciously wants to deny their children rights, not at the most fundamental level. I just don’t see that. It doesn’t feel true to me.
What I do see is that these barriers that Marianne speaks of stem from cultural beliefs, patterns and systems that keep us all locked up in a hierarchical worldview where some are considered more valuable and deserving than others – many times being men over women, and boys over girls, where inequality rather than equality is the order of the day.
It is not only in developing countries where this inequality is rampant, but right here in our country. I remember Joss’ quote and find it so I can sit with it. When I first heard him say these words, I was taken by the passion in his voice.
So I sit with this wondering of what misogyny has done to our world, how out of balance we are, both internally and externally, and how much my soul feels the anguish of this imbalance. His words seem to speak directly to my experience of feeling as if something so rich, so lovely, so radiant is missing in our world.
I Dare You
I remember another Girl Effect video that caused my heart to break, and I go back to it to watch it again, one more time.
I watch the video again, looking at each girl with fresh eyes, really looking and listening.
I take in the words, “I dare you to look at me and see only a statistic, someone you’ll never meet, a tragedy, a commodity, a child bride.”
I hear the words, “I dare you to look at me as more than a poster for your cause, a promise you won’t keep.”
I breathe in the words, “I dare you to look at me without pity, fatigue, dismissal.”
I open my heart to the words, “I dare you to rethink what it means to look at a girl – not a burden, not an object, but the answer.”
Each face looks at me directly, while the words ask me to look, really look with eyes and a heart that want to see, not eyes and a mind that think they already know.
It’s as if the narrator really knows how unconscious human beings can be, how easy it is for our minds to scan images and take stock of them in a split second, coming away with quick assumptions that satisfy us so we can move on.
Can I really watch these images, with an open heart that is willing to feel whatever arises as these eyes stare back, not asking for pity, but asking instead to truly be seen as an intelligent being with capabilities not recognized, with the desire to be a part of the answer rather than simply an object, a commodity or a problem to be solved?
Can I ask myself, “How do I contribute to the current situation?” and can I sit with myself and be with the truth of the answer?
It Is A Structure, It Is Not Men.
I feel the pain inside me, the pain that comes from having been conditioned in a society that is misogynistic at its core and that also knows misandry as well. I feel this pain while at the same time knowing that this misogyny isn’t a natural tendency of the human condition.
Misogyny is at the heart of patriarchy, and patriarchy is a hierarchy where men are on top, women are next, children are below them, and the rest of life, including animals and the earth bring up the rear. It is a structure where the masculine is valued and honored over the feminine in both genders, as well as in our education, economic, political…in short all of our systems.
Women are tough and can handle all sorts of adverse situations. But I have seen when a girl has had to harden herself to manage an intense new space. That often turns into a hardened woman who can play business in the big leagues with the best of them. How many girls have been sacrificed on the altar of progress? Women who have compromised their very feminine nature so they can get along. More often than not we end up losing what is best about girls and women just so they can operate in a hostile world with an economic system antithetical to human values. We need to have a place for feminine values – in women and in men as well.
Matthew brilliantly points out that the systems in place cause girls and women to have to harden themselves to survive.
I would say we have ALL (men and women, boys and girls) learned to harden ourselves in this intense, hostile world with systems that are ‘antithetical to human values’. Our softer sides, the soft animal belly that Mary Oliver wrote of, has been buried someplace so deep inside that we can watch the video above, hear the words spoken, take in the images and still not allow ourselves to feel just how much has been sucked out of our own souls by the imbalance and inequalities in the world, and within our own beings.
I wonder about fathers and how they feel deep in their hearts about their daughters and how the world dismisses girls. What does this do to a man?
I know in myself, there is a genuine deep desire to be of service to the world, to do something about what I see and hear in these Girl Effect videos, and in the oodles of pages of facts and resources. And, I know I must also go deeper into my own heart, deeper in to the places where I’ve hardened myself so I can feel what I see rather than simply thinking I know what I am seeing.
Yes, there are substantial things we need to do out there in this world that are necessary to the survival of the human race. The Girl Effect is about unleashing the vast potential of the feminine in girls, a potential that is at the heart of the sacred feminine within them. And, at the same time, can we sit for a moment and feel first? Can we feel into how what we are watching has affected the soul, the heart?
Can we be open to see and acknowledge what we’ve turned away from within ourselves in order to exist in a culture that engenders such hardened hearts? Can we feel the void of compassion, empathy, love, tenderness, and deep soulful caring so that we can begin to feel these things within ourselves? When we see them in ourselves, can we open to them in others?
Deep within each of us is a place that yearns for life to be free to honor itself, to express itself, to know itself fully.
Can we first fully feel, before we decide we know what is right to do? Can we then act from this place of broken-open heartedness, because in this place we are no longer me vs. you, we are same, same.
What if we have a revolution of tenderness? A tenderness so strong, so resourceful, so unwilling to turn away form the reality in front of us, a tenderness that breeds willingness, succor and sustenance for a world thirsty and hungry for such?
In every advanced mammalian species that survives and thrives, a common anthropological characteristic is the fierce behavior of the adult female of the species when she senses a threat to her cubs. The lioness, the tigress and the mama bear are all examples. The fact that the adult human female is so relatively complacent before the collective threats to the young of our species bespeaks a lack of proactive intention for the human race to survive.
Yet how things have been has no inherent bearing on how things have to be, and I think we’re living at a time when Western womanhood is just a moment away from emerging into the light of our collective possibility.
While we humans are clearly intelligent beings, over time, our intelligence has separated from our wisdom, dividing our smart brains from the wisdom of our hearts and bodies. We’ve marched forward over hundreds of years as if we are separate from the rest of life, as if we hold some lofty privilege that other forms of life are not worthy of. We’ve also separated from each other, from a sense of connectedness that can help us survive in tough times.
It is characteristic of the female of many mammalian species to be protective of her cubs, to fight for the life of the species, to covet life above all else, and to do whatever it takes to keep life going.
Marianne Williamson calls to us to remember this nature of the female, and calls us forth to action, an action that stems from this natural desire to protect. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else do this better, until now.
Another woman, just barely into her womanhood, is also calling us forward. Her name is Anita and she lives in India. Listen to her story here. The video is short, but it is powerful. She blew me away with her directness and her beautiful audacity, the audacity to ask us, you and me, to do something to support the 600 million girls living in the developing world.
Anita refuses to be a victim of a system that would keep her from her dreams. And, she takes her power one step further. She in turn asks us, those who can do something about the 600 million girls who can’t do anything for themselves, to get off of our duffs and do something, because, in Anita’s words, “what’s happening isn’t working.”
Now it might be easy to respond to her plea by saying, “I don’t have any power.” or “It’s not up to me to fix something that is broken in your country.” or even, “You’re not my child. I have my own problems.” And of course, we have the choice to see things from those perspectives. Or, if Anita’s call has roused you at all, we can shift how we see things. We can look through a different lens.
Let’s call this other lens, The Girl Effect Lens.
The Girl Effect Lens:
The Girl Effect – n.
The unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.
The Girl Effect shows us that when we change the lives of girls for the better, we change the world for the better. Why is this? Because girls are different than boys, as women are different than men. Neither is better than the other, but the diversity we bring to the world has always been important, and at this critical time, is even more important. According to statistics, when girls are empowered, they are more likely to reinvest their resources back into their families.
Fact: When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)
Less than two cents of every international aid dollar spent in the developing world is earmarked for girls. And yet when a girl has resources, she will reinvest them in her community at a much higher rate than a boy would. If the goal is health, wealth, and stability for all, a girl is the best investment. (source, The Girl Effect)
Because many girls grow up to be mothers, investing in their education is more than simply providing them with the means to get a good job. It also keeps them safe during adolescent years when they are more prone to sexual assault and way-too-early marriage, while providing a firm foundation for them to stand on when they become mothers and begin to raise their own children.
Fact: Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
If the 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world today follow the path of school drop-out, early marriage and early childbirth, and vulnerability to sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, then cycles of poverty will only continue. (source, the Girl Effect)
Girls know they’re facing discrimination and injustice. They have dreams and hopes for their lives just like boys. They see the inequities.
Girls find themselves at the intersection of age and gender discrimination. While girls do not often refer to their own rights, they express a sense of injustice in many areas of their lives. From expressing frustration at what their brothers get to do to anger about their parents’ lack of support to hopelessness at their experiences of sexual violence, they consistently appeal to a sense of fairness and the violation of that sense. As adolescent girls living in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, lamented, “Rights exist on paper, but in reality they aren’t put into practice.” (source, Girls Count | The Coalition for Adolescent Girls)
This blog is about rediscovering what it is to be female. I would venture to say many young girls know what it is, because they haven’t yet grown up to forget their instincts and their nature. They show it to us if we are willing to see, if we are willing to open our eyes to what is here. They live it directly, by taking care of their families once they are educated because their parents took care of them.Even when parents try to push them into a life that’s not based on their hopes and dreams, many of the girls come back – as did Anita – to take care of their parents. Anita now has her own business; she’s repaired her family’s house; and she pays their medical bills
This is what the world looks like through the Girl Effect Lens.
I would say this is the same natural response that is in all women. And (this is the key part) it is the same natural response that is needed right now in response to ‘the collective threats to the young of our species’.
These girls are showing us what is dormant in us. They are showing us what life looks like through the Girl Effect Lens.
Anita went so far as to go on a hunger strike for her dream. I can only imagine the obstacles she faced, and the strength and courage she found within. We each have that same resiliency within us.
For me, the problems we face as a global community can seem insurmountable, enough so that I feel like nothing I could do would make a difference. But looking through the Girl Effect Lens helps me here, too. Anita doesn’t have to fix everyone’s home or pay everyone’s medical bills. She is simply giving back to her family. She shared her story, a story that guides us to see things differently. And, she listened to that voice inside, that inner voice that told her to do whatever it took to follow her dream.
That’s all that is being asked of us. To trust the inner voice, to speak out about what is true, to give back, to be proactive members of the global community. The Girl Effect website asks us to Join the Conversation:
Your support, your voice and your action – that’s what it’s going to take to wake up the world and make a real difference. Make yourself part of the Girl Effect revolution. Given the chance 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries can unleash the world’s greatest untapped solution to poverty. This is the Girl Effect. If we can release girls living in poverty, they will do the rest.
Girls Are Not Little Women:
Girls are not little women. They deserve to have their girlhood and their adolescence. They deserve an education, and the choice to marry or not, and at an age of their choosing. They deserve to be free from the very real threat of sexual violence and all the psychological and health issues that come from that violence.
We are women, and we have experienced girlhood. We know how it felt to stand on the brink of adolescence, stand at the doorway to womanhood, and wonder what life would hold. Most of us reading this right now never faced the kinds of injustices and lack of choices that these girls face. Yet, we were girls in a cultural structure where women don’t experience the same equality as men, even if it looks like we do ‘on paper’. Remember what the girls in Brazil said, “Rights exist on paper, but in reality they aren’t put into practice.”
I invite you to go back to the time when you were twelve.
How did you sense the world and your place in it?
What dreams did you have?
Were you given the opportunity to bring those dreams into reality? If not, what got in the way?
How did you see girls and women treated?
What injustices did you see as a girl?
What part of yourself, if any, did you put away in order to fit into a society where age and gender discrimination are believed to be simply ‘the way things are’?
What privileges did you have, simply because of the family you were born into did you, and do you continue to, enjoy?
As a woman now in this age that is calling us forth, as both Anita and Marianne do, what have you been blessed with, over the course of your lifetime, that is needed right now to make a difference in these girls lives, a difference that we will all benefit from?
When you look through the Girl Effect Lens, how do you see yourself? What gifts do you possess? What can you do to make a difference so that those 600 million girls might say, “Wow. Thank you. What you are dong IS working.”?”
The Girl Effect website is an incredible resource to find out more about the situation we face in our global community with respect to these 600 million girls. Take some time to watch the videos, read the fact sheets and downloads to understand what’s happening. Pass the videos and links around on Facebook and Twitter.
Thirty-seven years ago today, 11/11, I held her in my arms for the first time. She came into life, I became a mother. It was a day that changed me forever.
Holding her in my arms for the first time, I knew a love I’d never even comprehended prior to that moment. A love completely unconditional. A love that would deepen over the years as she grew into womanhood, left home, married, became a mother, and handled life’s challenges and graces with such strength and courage.
Sitting here writing this post, I can’t begin to put into words the depth of this love for my daughters, I have two, and their children. It is completely unconditional. While in my day-to-day life I may do things in very conditional ways, not always showing up in the moment in a way that reflects this unconditional love, the limitless depth of the love in my heart is always here.
Four years ago, I was sitting in an ashram in India. Amma’s ashram. I was sitting in meditation while Amma gave darshan. Long lines of people would show up every day she was at home in her ashram, when she wasn’t touring the world giving hugs. Sitting in her love-filled temple, I was profoundly moved. My eyes came upon an Indian woman and her small child. They were sitting across from me, on the other side of the temple. She was holding him in her arms while he slept. She looked like the Madonna with child. A beautiful light surrounded them, a light not visible with my eyes, but wholly visible with my heart.
In that moment, this memory of the moments I became a mother, and the love that filled my heart for my babies, once again flooded my consciousness. This time, though, it wasn’t inside me, it surrounded me. It held me. It was me, and I was it. This love was so deep, so full, so rich that everything in my awareness was bathed in love.
Sitting here, writing this post, I feel it once again. This love. This universal motherhood consciousness that Amma speaks of. It is in us all. We are all bathed in it. Women and men, whether parents or not, are all universal mothers to all the world’s children.
Thirty-seven years ago, I was seventeen. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was meant to give birth to this child. I knew it in a place within me that was ancient and wise, a place that knows what I am here to do. As a young mother, I drew upon a strength and wisdom that flowed from this ancient place, a fountain of wisdom and love. I drew upon the sacred feminine consciousness within me, within my body, within my heart.
I certainly was far from a perfect mother. Far from it. Yet, something deeper flowed through my imperfect actions. Something unconditional infused my ways of loving conditionally.
This female intelligence, this wisdom, strength and knowing, runs through all women. We know what is right for our souls. We know what is right for our bodies. We know what is right for our children. When we are in touch with this wisdom, we know.
I knew this was right for me, for my soul and the soul of my daughter from some deep place within me. No one else could make this choice but me. It was the right choice for me, and that says nothing about what is right for any other woman.
So much that has been done through the structure and paradigm of patriarchy has clouded and obscured our female intelligence, our feminine ways of knowing. We’ve been cut off from the sacred feminine. We’ve been led to believe She is not here, that we can’t trust our own knowing and wisdom. She has been kept down in the dark. Yet, don’t let that fool you for a moment. This female intelligence has always been here. She is now rising into the light, up into consciousness.
She is living and breathing inside you right now. Somewhere you know this, even if you can’t quite yet trust Her.
Open to Her. Receive Her. Remember Her in your cells. Let Her bring forth your tears of grief for having lost touch with Her. Let Her bring forth this universal wisdom within you, so that you may shower your own heart and body with Her love. For Her love is your love, Her wisdom is your wisdom, Her ferocity is your ferocity.
Happy Birthday, beautiful daughter, wise woman.
I’d love to hear about your female intelligence. What you know. What you see. What you feel. We all learn by knowing what another woman knows of her own experience.
We’re born creative. It’s our nature. Yet, only 2% of adults believe they are creative.
Creativity isn’t an act of the thinking mind – it’s an act of nature, and that nature is most accessible by way of a mind embodied, by way of the heart and soul.
Creativity is a flowering, an urge from within, an explosion of life force that propels the seed up through the ground, the baby out through the mother, the cherry blossom to bloom, the seed of an idea into an innovative force.
Creativity, Love, Sexuality, Sensuality are all aspects of our true nature – the life force that flows through us.
Our biggest block to allowing this force to flow is our fear of losing control, which is also our fear of the ‘little death’, the ‘die before you die’ that is at the heart of awakening and the expression of the sacred.
Our creativity is our nature, a nature that is wild, unfettered, feral, and unpredictable, just like our sexuality. Totally unpredictable, yet so necessary to life joyfully lived. It can feel frightening, yet so full of the very thing our souls are thirsting for: a full cup of life’s eroticism.
Our need to control keeps our true nature at bay. It keeps us in a kind of limbo, where we long for the freedom to create, yet at the same time, telling ourselves that others hold the key that can unlock that freedom.
The freedom is ours if we’re willing to let go of control and allow life to move us.
An Issue of Authority
No one can give the green light to life to move through us, but us. Each of us can speak the quiet, yet powerful, ‘Yes’ for Life to take us on the ride it has planned for us.
For me, Life is God. It is the mystery. We give many names to it, because we want to understand it, to know it, to have some insight into it so we can ‘know’ it and control our experience in some way.
One of the ways I try to control (in a fairly unconscious way) is looking for permission to create what I really want to create. Of course it isn’t so literal when it shows up in my day-to-day life.
As my dear friend Jeanne says, “It’s an authority issue.”
I wonder, when did I put someone else in charge of me? When did I give someone else the key to my feral self, my wild unfettered creativity? When did I hand over the rights of my body, my soul, my power?
At one point in my youth, I traded my power to create for safety and love. Smart choice for a little one that was too young to survive on her own. Until it became conscious, I didn’t realize how often and how much I was trading my voice for all the things that kept me connected.
The only thing is, that kind of connection isn’t real, nor is it true. That kind of connection is a not-so-helpful trade-off of power with another that keeps us both locked up in the search for safety, rather than the expression of what wants to be known.
The deeper I dive into the creative fire, the more I know this connection between the erotic impulse and the creative impulse. The desire to know the mystery that is at the heart of my nature shows itself in many forms.
There are many out there that wish to hold the power over my body, my femaleness, my sexuality, and this feral female instinct. How long will I go along with that crazy-making agreement?
This woman’s body belongs to no one. This woman’s wild self is free. I am fortunate in this. I live in a place where this is still so, even if others are banging drums to change that.
It is up to me to set the impulse free, to write it, to dance it, to sing it, to speak it. And to enjoy the eroticism that life offers, not as a woman that is simply here to please a man, but a woman here to write her life.
The men I honor and respect revel in that writing. They celebrate the coming together of the creative impulse and the erotic impulse in all women, for in doing so they set their own creative impulse free, as well.
In my post on Extending Love, I wrote of learning to love everything, beginning with that which felt the easiest to love. My own sexuality hasn’t been the easiest, yet if I am to write my life, it is one of the most important places to extend my love.
Lucille Clifton writes of magic hips, hips that hold the cradle of creativity in women.
Maya Angelou knows this well:
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
How would I describe this cradle of creativity, this place of the source of infinite generosity and abundance within my own body?
When I found this video of Lucille Clifton reading her poem, Homage to my Hips, I must have watched it five times in a row, drinking in the sheer audacity of her words. Yes, audacity. She makes no apologies for taking up space with her big hips.
What a glorious thing – a woman’s body that moves and dances and sings of its own wild lusciousness.
She makes no apologies for being big, strong, and tremendously tantalizing.
Her hips go where they want to go and do what they want to do.
Oh to take up space with these hips, my hips, to know they belong here, to let them loose to sing hallelujah as they move and sashay with each and every step I take.
I could learn a thing or two from Lucille Clifton.